Welcome To
Acadia Broadcasting NewsThe Latest and Greatest ContentYour Trusted Local Source


CUPE members hold a news conference on Sept. 8, 2023, to discuss strike vote results by nearly 140 inside workers in Saint John. Image: Brad Perry

UPDATED: Saint John city workers vote to strike

By Brad Perry Sep 8, 2023 | 5:27 PM

Residents in Saint John could soon feel the impacts of a strike by city workers.

Nearly 140 inside workers represented by CUPE have voted 94 per cent in favour of a strike.

The union members, who work in a wide range of city departments, saw their last contract expire in Dec. 2021.

Brittany Doyle, president of CUPE Local 486, said the two sides reached an impasse in August.

“The city is intent on enforcing a contract that falls below the cost of living and violates the city’s own wage escalation policy,” Doyle said during a news conference Friday afternoon.

That policy, approved by council in 2019, said a three-year rolling average of assessment base growth should be used in contract negotiations.

But Mike Davidson, CUPE’s national service representative, said the city is reneging on the policy after voluntarily offering it to other groups.

“City services will be disrupted if we are forced to take a strike. We do not want to go on strike, but we need to conclude this round of bargaining,” said Davidson.

Union members work in police/fire/911 dispatch, customer service, bylaw enforcement, permitting, recreation, court services, financial services, administrative support, IT and technical roles.

City managers have been preparing for potential strike action, he said, such as training people to take over dispatching services at the Public Safety Communications Centre.

Davidson said Friday afternoon that strike action could happen within 24 hours, but he said they first want to give the city another chance to come back to the bargaining table.

“We’re hoping the city will realize this is a significant number of their workforce that is dissatisfied,” he said.

Doyle said many of their members have been struggling to make ends meet, with one in five being forced to take on a second job.

City issues statement in response to strike vote

In a statement issued late Friday afternoon, the city maintained that it has a “fair and reasonable offer” on the table.

The city also disputed claims made by the union that its offer is not compliant with council’s wage escalation policy.

“The Wage Escalation Policy places a cap on the City’s wage and benefit budget. The reason for this is to ensure that all wage increases are affordable for taxpayers,” said the statement.

“That includes consideration being given to the addition of new positions (service enhancements) and increased benefit costs and overtime costs so that they are all are affordable within the budget.”

It goes on to say that wage and benefit budgets must not exceed tax base growth as they want to avoid tax rate increases and service level reductions.

In the event of a strike by CUPE members, the city said it has contingency plans in place to minimize the disruption to public services.

“The public may experience longer than usual wait times accessing the police non-emergency services; however, citizens can be rest assured that there will be no interruption to emergency operations, including 911.”